The Child Conundrum – Why I Don’t Want Kids
I originally wrote this as a post for my blog, The Coconut Chronicles, but have expanded it here!
Let me just put this out there – I’m not a fan of children. In fact, I would go so far as to say that children are like little aliens to me. I see them and I’m almost always uncomfortable – I never know what to do or say, and sadly, what little charisma I manage to have around adults is instantly void when it comes to kids.
You can see their little eyes crinkle with disdain when they realise I can’t sing any Wiggles songs, and my lame attempts at chatting about cartoons, or colouring or preschool or whatever are usually laid to waste by them losing interest or yelling at me.
The two notable exceptions to this rule are my niece and nephew. My nephew is still quite little (just turned one!), and as such, has not yet learnt that I am awkward and ungainly around infants. My niece, however, at two and a half years old, must just be really gullible, because for some reason she totally adores me.
Being as I was the essential 20-something, awkward-around-children never-held-a-baby kind of girl, I never thought that the approval of a small child would mean so much to me.
But every time my niece, M, wants to hang out with me, or have me read her a book, or dance to that Bruno Mars song ‘Marry You’ with her, I’m filled with a warm sense of belonging – the midget totally thinks I’m cool!
And the love is definitely mutual – any of my poor, long-suffering friends (or even just the strangers I meet and harass on a near-daily basis) will tell you that I adore my niece and nephew to bits. I’m constantly whipping out photos of them on my phone, and forcing friends to watch videos of M doing truly boring things, like jumping on a trampoline, or giggling while I tickle her, or you know… eating or sleeping etc.
And I’m proud of the fact that I have a lovely relationship with my siblings’ children, not least of all because it means I get the emotional rewards of being around kids who love me, without ever having to shoulder any true responsibility. In fact, I have deliberately not learnt how to change a diaper for precisely that reason.
What I’m not so keen on these days, however, is the knowing, self-righteous looks a lot of people have started giving me when I gush about my niece, or the way my mum and dad visibly cheer up whenever I say something simple about how cute she is, or that I love her.
Quick note, guys – just because I like these two children, does not mean I want any of my own. Much like, just because I might think your dog is cute, or that those shoes look great on you, it’s unlikely I’ll be getting a matching canine or pair of heels anytime soon. Did I just compare children to pets and shoes? Yes, I did – in case you needed any further indication that I would make a terrible mother.
And that’s not even why I don’t want kids – I have no hang ups about whether or not I could parent a child, and I certainly don’t worry about whether I’ll ever find a man/sperm bank willing to commit to me carrying their spawn. I just don’t want kids.
Whenever I say this out loud, one of two things happens – people either smile knowingly and say something along the lines of ‘Oh, you’ll change your mind in time’, or they look vaguely put out and say ‘Well, if your mum had said that 22 years ago, where would you be now?’
Firstly, OF COURSE I might change my mind in time. I have changed my mind many times in my short life so far, and I intend to continue to do so, if it means making better decisions and allowing for the fact that I tend to grow and change as a person over time. That is fine. I acknowledge that I might feel differently about children in several years. Or, maybe I’ll never change my mind and will continue to find kids not to my taste. Who knows?
The fact that my feelings are not static is hardly a reason to question them – regardless of what happens in the future, I truly just don’t want kids now. And that should be ok.
And as to the second point, how the hell do I know where I would be if my mum hadn’t wanted children? That’s a philosophical question too great for me to answer, and it’s also irrelevant.
The fact that so many people assume that everyone wants kids really does irritate me, especially as a woman. People think you’re hard and cold and weird if you both possess a vagina and aren’t keen to use it to push out a child at some point.
I think the circle of life is wonderful, and I have a lot of respect for mothers in every shape and form. One of the biggest reasons why I don’t feel like I’ll ever want my own kids is because I’ve watched mothers raising their children and have realised what an incredibly difficult, daunting task it is. Evidently deeply rewarding as well, but I just don’t know that I have the capacity, patience, and strength to take it on myself.
That should be ok – it should be ok for me to be able to acknowledge the rights of other women to have children, and still have no desire to join their ranks. Choosing not to do something doesn’t mean you’re placing a value statement on it – I’m not saying that not having children is the ‘better choice’ just the right choice for me, right now.
And just as it would be offensive for me to tell you not to have kids, it is somewhat offensive to be told to have kids.
For now, though, I have my niece and nephew to adore, and my sure-to-be-dazzling career* to look forward to. Judgements be damned!
*spoken with the optimism of an Arts graduate.